Should Malta’s hotels return to what they were pre-COVID-19 when tourism finally starts picking up? One tourism player is adamant that they certainly shouldn’t.
Andrew Arrigo, director of the travel company Robert Arrigo & Sons, has called for a revamp in the hotel star rating system, warning the current classification methodology ranks hotels as being of the same standards when they clearly aren’t, both in terms of quality and price.
“Re-classification will re-calibrate the price to quality ratios and manage client expectations better,” he wrote in a report published by consultancy firm SEED which gathered proposals by Maltese ‘thought leaders’ for 2021.
He said this will serve to fill gaps in the market, whether it is in the form of upgrading or repurposing the product.
“It will also trigger the downgrading of one’s rating to match client expectation when comparing like with like but then overcompensating with amenities usually associated with hotels of a higher category (for example downgrading an older 4-star hotel to a 3-star hotel offering a 3-star quality product and price with 4-star amenities).”
Arrigo, whose father is Shadow Tourism Minister Robert Arrigo, also called for a new standards policy. This would be based on a market-accepted model that provides for a uniformity of ratings, which would be periodically adjusted to maintain relevance.
“Furthermore, the requirement to maintain standards would see a natural reduction in the players on the market and by consequence address oversupply.”
Arrigo warned that in pre-COVID-19 times, Malta tended to ignore the importance of the price to quality ratio, the concept that a product’s price must match quality, blinded as it was by the high number of tourists who flocked over.
As a consequence, Malta gained a reputation as being an expensive tourist destination.
“Travellers do not choose other destinations solely on price but whether the overall product justifies the price paid and this is the question each stakeholder needs to candidly ask themselves to then determine the next steps moving forward,” Arrigo said.
Other proposals he put forward include a drive towards data analysis to better understand consumer behaviour and a retention of flexibility in bookings.
“Tourism does not afford to be an ostrich in the face of fear and adversity,” he wrote. “Digging one’s head in the sand will not resolve any of the challenges ahead. It will also render one incapable of seeing the opportunities that come. Sooner or later travel will resume but one needs to be ready more than ever to be relevant and capable. So, let us not be an ostrich.”
Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo yesterday launched Malta’s tourism strategy for the next ten years, based on ramping up the quality of the island’s tourism product.
“Quality needs to be a way of life, an experience for those who visit us,” he said. “When this pandemic is a chapter of the past, Malta will emerge even stronger than before”.
What do you make of Andrew Arrigo’s proposal?